Photo of the Valve Turners
Photo of the Valve Turners. Michael Foster is on the right in the orange vest. Source:

Valve turner Michael Foster was today sentenced to three years in prison, with 2 years deferred — meaning that he will spend the next year behind bars and will be able to serve the next two years under supervised probation. Michael was taken into custody immediately upon sentencing. Sam Jessup, who recorded Michael’s actions, was sentenced to two years, both deferred with supervised probation.

According to Climate Direct Action: “Reacting to the sentence, Foster said, “It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting in jail. What matters is stopping the pollution. If other people don’t take action, mine makes no difference. And if they don’t, the planet comes apart at the seams. The only way what I did matters is if people are stopping the poison.””

Michael Foster met with Aly Tharp, UU Ministry for Earth’s Program Director, in Austin, Texas, last December after speaking at two UU churches in Austin (and many more UU congregations around the country). Michael mentioned to Aly that he became involved in the Unitarian Universalist community in Seattle after feeling inspired by their activity about climate change.

Aly responds to Michael’s sentencing by saying, “I am deeply saddened that Michael is spending any time in prison for his actions. I wish today’s news were instead about the Keystone Pipeline getting closed down for good. I hope that Michael’s bravery and commitment inspire more Unitarian Universalists to take bold action for climate justice, and I hope that Michael receives letters of support and gratitude every day of his prison sentence.”

Another valve-turner, Leonard Higgins, is also a Unitarian Universalist. Leonard was found guilty of misdemeanor trespass and felony criminal mischief for shutting off a Spectra tar sands pipeline, and his sentencing is now scheduled for March 20, 2018, in Fort Benton, Montana.

Learn more and support the valve turner legal fund through the Climate Direct Action website.